Bretton Woods Monetary Institute & Festival
“The aim of the Bretton Woods Conference was the creation of a dynamic world community
in which the peoples of every nation will be able to realize their potentialities in peace.”
Henry Morgenthau, Chairman 1944 Bretton Woods Conference & United States Secretary of the Treasury.
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An Overview and Examination of our Monetary Misfortunes
“The truth is that no one knows what’s going to happen, and that recognition defined our approach to risk management.” Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs, one of the major Wall Street banks at the First Public Hearing of the 2008 Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission on January 13, 2010
Nobel Prize Laureate in economics and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman elaborates on Blankfein’s words: “The economics profession has not, to say the least, covered itself in glory these past six years. Hardly any economists predicted the 2008 crisis — and the handful who did tended to be people who also predicted crises that didn’t happen. More significant, many and arguably most economists were claiming, right up to the moment of collapse, that nothing like this could even happen… Furthermore, once crisis struck economists seemed unable to agree on a response. They’d had 75 years since the Great Depression to figure out what to do if something similar happened again, but the profession was utterly divided when the moment of truth arrived.” (https://upload.democraticunderground.com/1016103384)
May it be clear that these words are not quoted merely as a criticism of economists. Rather, these words are offered as a Wake Up Call — before the “American Dream” becomes the nightmare that a large and growing number of people fear. The reputed Wall Street mantra: “IBG!” (I’ll be gone!); “YBG!” (You’ll be gone!), after we have made our “killing,” is clearly leading nowhere apart from a Dead End.
What is going on? What is the basis upon which grave decisions facing our livelihood, our economic life are being made or not made? Is there a basis, clear and solid?
Economist Thomas Piketty’s voluminous research has led him to conclude: “There is no such thing as an economic science.” This conclusion challenges the assumption that economic policies and practices are made on the basis of sound economic theory. The truth, we suggest, is another.
Since the publication of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations in 1776, the “dismal science” of economics has been in a state of crisis, economist and former Fulbright Scholar Carmine Gorga writes. “That crisis has led to perpetual upheavals in the history of economic theory itself. Classical economics gave way neo-classical economics to the marginalist revolution to the economics of Keynes to Keynesian economics to post-Keynesian economics to monetarism to neo-neo-classical economics to real business cycle theory to behaviorism—not to mention Marxist economics or Austrian economics or Georgist economics or Kelsonian economics… let alone the splinter programs of research within each major school of economic thought. These efforts are not additions to basic scientific knowledge. Rather, we suggest, they are failed attempts to describe the mechanics of the economic process itself.”
Philip Pilkington has distilled this complex issue in his statement: “Mainstream economics moves forward not through logical development and integration, but through forgetting.”
These words confirm the growing concerns about mainstream economic theory by pillars of the economic establishment themselves. In the words of Alan Blinder, former Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and professor of economics at Princeton: “Too much of what young scholars [of economics] write these days is theoretical drivel, mathematically elegant but not about anything real.”
Surely we can do better.
At the conclusion of the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Christine Lagarde, Director General of the International Monetary Fund, spoke to the challenge before us. Acknowledging Oxfam’s annual report, which noted that just eight men own the same wealth as half the world, Lagarde stated: “On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, we do well to acknowledge a key takeaway from 2017: sustainable growth [i.e. a future that can be sustained] must also be inclusive growth.”
If Lagarde’s vision is clear, how do those who share the vision work toward it realization: a future worth envisioning?
As a first step we offer a consideration, fundamental: One can not solve a problem (i.e. our economic misfortunes) with the same kind of thinking that created it, (the ongoing crisis) in the first place, Albert Einstein noted and went on to say that to try to do so is “insanity.”
Einstein’s words introduce a new and renewed way of thinking about economics that is, as noted, “inclusive.” Simply expressed, this vision begins by placing the human being, our humanity back in its midst of the discipline.*
Such a “Concordian Economics” integrates economic theory, policy, and practice into “An Economics of Common Sense.”
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* “Economics as if People Mattered,” in the words of the subtitle of economist, E. F. Schumacher’s best-selling book, “Small is Beautiful.” Schumacher’s countryman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, elaborates on the sub-title in his book, “The Right Road for Britain”: “Man is a spiritual creature, advancing on an immortal destiny, and science, politics, economics are good or bad as far as they help or hinder the individual soul on its eternal journey.”